Hammering Out . . . The Pacific

THE PACIFIC, HBO, Sundays, 9/8pm central

JOHN: Having seen and loved Band of Brothers, I was really excited for HBO's The Pacific, which follows a trio of American soldiers fighting the Japanese in the Guadalcanal at the start of WWII.  Not unlike Band of Brothers, it's a 10-episode miniseries executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and features the same sort of realistic, wiry camerawork that Spielberg made famous nearly 12 years ago with Saving Private Ryan.  We're two episodes in now, and, while it may not be the popular thing to say, I think The Pacific is a giant bore.  Each episode begins with documentary footage of soldiers reminiscing about the war, and the whole thing reeks of one giant history lesson.  The actors (mostly unknowns) are not that captivating, and are stuck playing stock soldier characters - always shooting, loading, and/or polishing their guns.  It certainly hasn't helped that both episodes so far have featured about a half-hour of shoot-outs in the darkly lit jungle.  I don't know if I'm idolizing Band of Brothers, but I felt like that miniseries had more character development, more interesting and varied action sequences, and more compelling drama.  The Pacific is just a chore to sit through.  If I was still in school, it might be a decent teaching diversion, but as Sunday night entertainment goes, it's a letdown. I don't know - Jules - what do you think?  Am I being too hard on it?  Are my expectations too high?  Am I too hung up on Band of Brothers comparisons?

JULIE: Well, John, I haven't seen Band of Brothers (I know, I know), and I, too, have been underwhelmed by what I have seen so far of The Pacific.  For a war program, I think the scope is too broad.  I find myself more focused on thinking of ways to remember who's who (JP Morgan = Jon Favreau/Turtle from Entourage.  Then there's the guy from The Class, the young Val Kilmer, the Taylor Lautner/Seann William Scott hybrid, and, of course, Mr. Schu-Eggers, who appears to be the main character).  We're two episodes in, and I still don't care about any of these characters.  When the guy from The Class died, I only cared that the guy from The Class died, not that "Manny Ramirez" died or that his friend was sad about it.  Saving Private Ryan absolutely ripped my heart and soul out.  I want to get that same feeling from The Pacific, but the action sequences are too long and dark, and the narrative seems too unfocused.  And, don't get me wrong.  I love a good history lesson, even on a Sunday night.  In fact, at this point, I'd much rather be watching a documentary about WWII than just watching pyrotechnics lighting up a night sky and seeing shadows of faceless Japanese soldiers falling to the ground en masse
JOHN: I think we should be watching Band of Brothers instead of The Pacific, especially since you've never seen it.  I agree - coming up with nicknames for the actors in order to distinguish them is the sole entertainment I've gotten out of the program so far.  And what happened to young Joseph Mazzello from Jurassic Park?  Age has not agreed with him. But I digress. I think we're both on the same page about the battle sequences.  Sure, they look great - the whole miniseries does.  It cost a reported $200 million to make and that certainly shows, but I think the length and repetitiveness of the battles are just dragging the whole series down.  Realism is worthless if you don't have compelling human drama to support it, and so far, The Pacific is lacking in that area.  Now, the previews for upcoming weeks suggest that we'll follow the soldiers back home and away from the war itself.  Maybe that's a step in the right direction.
JULIE: First I want to make this statement: Just because something cost a gabillion dollars and just because it has Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg attached to it, does not make it infallible.  Just sayin'.  Case in point?  The Terminal.  But back to The Pacific, it looks like there's going to be more of an emphasis on the Mr. Schu-Eggers character, hopefully minimizing the scope of the show a little bit.  All it needs at this point is a little bit more characterization and a lot less Guadalcanal.  Based on the end of this episode, maybe they're headed in the right direction...?  And I promise I'll watch Band of Brothers this summer.
JOHN: Deal.  I'm going to give it another episode or two to improve, and if not, I will seriously consider dropping the show from the rotation - something I never would have imagined doing before I actually started watching it.
JULIE: You're only going to consider dropping it?  Way to take a stand  :-)
JOHN: Smart-ass.  What grade do you give it?  I'm going with a B-, and even that might be generous at this point.
JULIE: I was going to say B-, as well, but now I sound like a copycat.  So, I'll just give it an unimpressed grimace. 

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  • Well now I won't have to bother subscribing to HBO!

  • Don't rule HBO out yet. Treme starts in a few months!

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